Officials with the city of Houston and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County gathered May 7 to break ground on a project to repair, pave and reconstruct a 6-mile stretch of Westheimer Road between Loop 610 West and Midtown Houston.

The latest

Construction began in April on a portion of the project between a set of Union Pacific Railroad tracks in River Oaks and Weslayan Street.

The project originally only involved repaving curb lanes where buses run, but Houston Mayor John Whitmire said the city choose to expand the scope based on resident feedback. Work on the $12.2 million project will now include:
  • Resurfacing the entire width of the street along certain sections
  • Upgrading bus stops with lighting, trash cans and real-time bus arrival information
  • Improving crosswalks and sidewalks with access ramps
"METRO needs to listen to the residents; the city needs to listen to the residents," Whitmire said at the groundbreaking. "They want to fix their streets and drainage."

Elizabeth Brock, appointed as METRO board chair in February, said work will involve adding 50 new bus stops and improving METRO's 82 Westheimer route, which runs from Downtown Houston to the West Oaks Mall.

The context

With regards to a previously proposed project to improve parts of Lower Westheimer, including by adding bike lanes and upgrading dangerous intersections, Whitmire said "everything is on the table," but did not indicate there were any plans for the project to return to the city's Capital Improvement Plan in the near future. The Whitmire administration is conducting an ongoing review of all city projects that involve narrowing or removing vehicle lanes.

Brock also said other METRO plans are under review with the goal of having the agency better cater to the needs of customers.

METRO board members voted at an April 25 meeting to reduce the frequency of service of the agency's Silver Bus Rapid Transit line from 10 minutes to 20 minutes, which will take effect in June. METRO previously defined bus rapid transit as arriving every 15 minutes or less.

What they're saying

"We’re committed to taking a common-sense approach to fixing [Westheimer] and other projects," Brock said at the groundbreaking. "The original plan was for METRO to put a band-aid on the bus lane and have the city come back a second time and fix this project. Our revised plan eliminates the need for a second disruptive project. We will now improve this busy street for the long-term with the least amount of disruption to commuters caused by construction and with less tax payer dollars."

What's next

Work will kick off in June on the part of the project's Segment A from Shepherd Drive to Dunlavy Street, according to METRO's timeline. In July, the portion of Westheimer east of the railroad tracks to Loop 610 West will go under construction.

All work on Inner Loop segments is slated for completion by April 2025, with work from Montrose Boulevard to Bagby Street taking place last. Design work is underway on a 13.2-mile stretch from Loop 610 to Hwy. 6.